Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday

For many, Friday represents the end of a long work week that’s filled with heavy doses of drudging, sludging and other words that don’t actually exist but rhyme with “udging” and connote menial and tedious tasks that are ultimately distasteful. It’s my hope that at the end of such misery, at that moment in time that only occurs on a Friday afternoon when it’s too far away from closing time to leave work early, but too late in the day to start anything new, you’ll join us here to read some random observations about baseball and contribute your own thoughts on the subjects that are broached.

So, without further ado, I present this week’s Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday:

Hall of Fame

In the long, sad history of incredibly stupid things, this may be the dumbest:

You know, I try to remain open to other perspectives, especially ones that are contrary to some of my stronger opinions. However, I can’t get past this. I just can’t see how you can offer a reasonable justification for not believing that Barry Bonds – whom I like quite a bit – and Roger Clemens – whom I don’t like at all – deserve to be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Of course, someone as blatantly petty as Philip Hersh isn’t likely to be much interested in reason, and I’m willing to accept that there will always be sad and pathetic children looking to employ push-button tactics in order to get the attention that they crave so desperately. However, there are also reasonable people who will not be voting for Bonds’ and Clemens’ admission into Cooperstown this year, their first of eligibility.

I don’t know how you can defend that position properly, though. In order to dismiss Bonds or Clemens cheating scumbags who are undeserving, you have to dismiss precedent, and as soon as you dismiss precedent for Hall of Fame qualifications, you eliminate the entire purpose of the entity, which is to recognize players who established themselves to be above a certain standard. The definition of that standard is nuanced, but it relies on precedent.

If precedent allows for cheaters to be admitted, and it most certainly does – along with a slew of individuals who have committed far more heinous acts – an individual’s opinion that someone cheated, no matter how convinced they may be, doesn’t matter. It has been argued that the “character clause” that is supposed to guide your voting for the Hall of Fame negates cheats. However, every other piece of guidance for admittance attaches an element of precedent according to who has already been voted in. Why on earth do we not also consider the precedent when it comes to character as well?

Non-Tender Heem

The San Francisco Giants will be doing the right thing if they decide to non-tender reliever Brian Wilson ahead of his final year of free agency. He made $8.5 million while spending most of last season on the Disabled List, and even without an arbitrated increase, that’s too much to spend on a bullpen that not only did fine without him last season, but is also already running at a high cost after extending Jeremy Affeldt and anticipating raises for Santiago Casilla (if he isn’t also non-tendered) and Sergio Romo, among other relievers.

When the Giants won in 2010, they made the right decision in letting go of Edgar Renteria and Juan Uribe, but still signed Aubrey Huff to an unnecessary contract. Wilson, despite being injured, was still very much a part of the 2012 team, consistently charting pitches and contributing in any fashion that he was able, represents a tough choice for a San Francisco front office that would like to show loyalty and acknowledge that supposedly great chemistry that the team has, while also being realistic as to how it budgets for payroll.

Wilson represents too great of a risk, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they try to bring him back at a rate that mitigates that risk for them.

How Much Do You Pay Mariano Rivera?

Of course, not everything exists in a vacuum, as proven earlier this week when the New York Yankees agreed to pay Mariano Rivera $10 million for his relief services in 2013, after missing most of last season with an ACL tear. Because both the Yankees and Rivera are unlike any other in their field, I don’t think that a single salary figure below $25 million would’ve surprised me. It could’ve been anywhere between the league minimum and $25 million, and it wouldn’t have elicited anything more than a shoulder shrug from me.

Oh, Perfect

Well played. Although, I’m surprised that something like this doesn’t happen more often.

Let The Wright One In

The New York Mets will pay David Wright $138 million over the next eight years. That’s a lot of money to commit to a player through their age 30-37 seasons. However, Wright has been an excellent third baseman over most of his career, and, judging by the reaction of Mets fans, this is something that supporters wanted and perhaps needed as a sign of good intent from the organization’s management/ownership.

The only problem is that the third baseman is coming off one of the most misleading 7.8 fWAR, 6.7 rWAR, 5.7 WARP seasons in the history of baseball, putting up the majority of his value in the first half of the season and then falling apart to end the season as a below average batter. From Mark Simon of ESPN:

Now, we can’t merely cite a slump as evidence that a player is terrible. Obviously, an entire season’s worth of data is more indicative of true talent than the last few months, and overall, Wright had a fantastic season, the best among all third basemen in the league. However, 2012 wasn’t the first instance of wear-and-tear presumably having an impact on Wright.

It seems that as a season progresses, Wright hits fewer line drives, mirroring the overall decreases in his production.

That’s not an encouraging sign for a player that has just been locked up for so much of his decline years. If the wear-and-tear of individual seasons has this type of effect on Wright, what might we expect from the wear-and-tear of multiple seasons at third base through his thirties?

Where’s Walden’s Foot?

Jordan Walden was traded to the Atlanta Braves today by the Los Angeles Angels for Tommy Hanson. Any attempted analysis of this trade is blocked by the fact that Walden has the strangest release in all of baseball, with both of his feet leaving the ground with each pitch that he makes.

That doesn’t seem right, does it? Well, according to baseball rules, it’s not. An illegal pitch is defined as being “delivered to the batter when the pitcher does not have his pivot foot in contact with the pitcher’s plate.” I’m not sure that the motion does Walden any favors though, as he’s more likely to lose energy by pushing off so early with his back leg.

Ground Ball/Fly Ball Splits

Shortly after the Washington Nationals acquired Denard Span, it was expected that the suddenly redundant and always enormous Michael Morse would become available through trade. The 6’5″, 250 lbs behemoth represents the exact type of player that every team wants: an under-appreciated asset that’s likely to provide fair value without costing a lot. Morse certainly has holes in his game, defense and patience being chief among them, but he can hit for power, and hitting for power covers a great multitude of sins.

My first thought was for the Toronto Blue Jays, who currently have space at first base/designated hitter for someone to platoon with Adam Lind. As a right-handed slugger who hits the ball hard for power, Morse would most likely make a meal of batting at the Rogers Centre. His splits against right-handed and left-handed pitchers are quite similar, but there is a noticeable difference in his outcomes against ground ball pitchers with whom he struggles and fly ball pitchers with whom he does quite well.

From Bradley Woodrum of Fangraphs, who theorizes that swings at a larger degree than 55 have difficulties against ground ball pitchers:

Morse is borderline hopeless against GB pitchers. And again: SAMPLE SIZE WARNING — a good week could realistically change these numbers around for Morse as he has only some 200 PA against both GB and FB pitchers.

His swing suggests, however, his GB-pitcher struggles may just be a component of his game:

If the Blue Jays hadn’t already signed Melky Cabrera, they could put Morse in left field against right-handed pitchers, with Lind at first base. Against left-handers, he could play first base, while Rajai Davis plays in left field. All the while, the team could use Edwin Encarnacion as their permanent designated hitter. Against ground ball pitchers, they could use Davis and Lind despite handedness or look to collect another platoon partner to throw in the mix.

However, with Cabrera in left field, Morse is likely too good of a bat to merely platoon with Lind. As we saw during this past season, there’s next to nothing in terms of demand for the team’s current first baseman, and even if there were, he can still provide some value against right-handed pitching. I still like the idea of taking Michael Young off the hands of the Texas Rangers (assuming a good chunk of salary is picked up), and platooning him on the right side of the infield at both first and second base.

Otherwise, Morse would be an exceedingly good fit, but of course, there’s about ten other teams on which he’d be a good fit. There’s also the small matter of actually having the pieces to pry him away from the Nationals, a team that’s in win-now mode despite an incredibly young roster. I don’t know that Toronto has any extraneous Major League talent that it could move to acquire Morse, and I doubt that the type of prospect one might exchange for a player of Morse’s abilities would interest Washington in the least.

How Old Is Albert Pujols, Again? 

You should follow Glen DuPaul on Twitter. I’m not sure that there’s any baseball writer out there right now consistently asking as interesting questions about baseball, and then satiating his own curiosity through research to the benefit of all of us.

His latest piece for Beyond The Box Score looks at the walk rate of Albert Pujols, comparing it to other great players.

These are his findings:

Now, if we push Pujols line over two or three years, this is what we find:

Who I’d Vote For

My imaginary Hall of Fame ballot would be comprised of:

Barry Bonds, Rogers Clemens, Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Allan Trammel, Curt Schilling and I’m teetering on Larry Walker.

And as a late addition, from my own obliviousness: Mike Piazza.

Bo Knows Five Decades

Bo Jackson turned 50-years-old today. He played eight seasons of Major League Baseball while concurrently playing four seasons in the National Football League. I don’t believe that such proof of athleticism will ever be offered again. I loved baseball and football while Jackson was in his prime, and I loved watching him play baseball and football, but I couldn’t grasp how extremely impressive he was to excel at both sports simultaneously. It destroys my mind to imagine how great and how much longer he might have played if he only focused on baseball.

Perhaps more impressive than anything else is the fact, that when Jackson returned to baseball following hip replacement surgery, he didn’t merely play as a designated hitter. He still spent 676 innings in the outfield.

My favorite Bo Jackson story revolves around him telling his sick mother, while he was injured, to hold on because he’d hit her a home run in his first game back. She passed away before he played again, but in his first at bat back from injury following her death, he hit a home run, and then incorporated the baseball into her tombstone.

A close second is the one about what happened right after he dislocated his hip during his last NFL play. George Brett, his teammate at the time was in attendance and asked the trainer what happened. The trainer told him that Jackson dislocated his hip and popped it back into place, which he had previously believed to be impossible because no human being could be that strong.

I love this photo, because it’s impossible not to suggest that Don Mattingly, at the time that this picture was taken, was an incredible athlete, and then you look at Bo Jackson next to him, and it’s like comparing a man to a child.